Tuesday, March 29, 2011

44 Clove Garlic Soup

Last night I made 44 clove garlic soup.  Yes, you read that right.  Apparently this is a recipe that has been making its rounds on cooking blogs for awhile now.  I’m one of those people who like garlic just enough to not be scared of the title.  My husband is a different story.  He likes garlic a moderate amount, whereas I’m perfectly happy being overwhelmed by it.  I tried to hide the recipe from him so he’d stay objective, but that didn’t work.   As my garlic cloves roasted, he made various comments about how a vampire entering our kitchen would have died by now. 

You might have noticed that I mentioned roasting the cloves.  The remaining cloves are sautéed whole and simmered in chicken stock.  After going through these processes, the number 44 doesn’t seem quite so scary.  Personally, I thought the combo of garlic, thyme and onions cooking smelled amazing. 

44 Clove Garlic Soup (Adapted from Bon Appetit, via Smitten Kitchen or gimme some oven)
  • 26 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. (1/4 stick) butter
  • 2 cups sliced onions
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 18 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (optional)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 4 lemon wedges
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 26 garlic cloves in small glass baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes. Cool. Squeeze garlic between fingertips to release cloves. Transfer cloves to small bowl.
Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and thyme and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add roasted garlic and 18 raw garlic cloves and cook 3 minutes. Add chicken stock; cover and simmer until garlic is very tender, about 20 minutes. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to saucepan; add shredded chicken and cream, and bring to simmer. Season with salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
Divide grated cheese among 4 bowls and ladle soup over. Squeeze juice of 1 lemon wedge into each bowl and serve.

For my recipes, I went ahead and added some chicken.  I also cut the recipe in half, even though 22 garlic cloves didn’t sound quite as impressive.  I wanted to try a healthier route, so I used less olive oil and substituted fat free half and half for the cream.  This does make the soup a little thinner.  You should also only try this if you are not going to have leftovers, as soups with fat free half and half don’t store well.

I thought this soup was fantastic. It has a nice, robust roasted garlic flavor, but isn’t overwhelming.  Despite my husband’s earlier comments, he still protested when I suggested I could finish his share.  He did add more cracked pepper to his and declared the chicken to be necessary, whereas I actually would want to leave it out next time.  Bottom line?  If you love garlic, you have to try this soup. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Piave Vecchio Risotto

A few weeks ago, I had written about all my wonderful cheese that I had brought home with me.  One of these cheeses was Piave Vecchio.  Piave Vecchio is a cow's milk cheese that is produced in the Piave River Valley of northern Italy and aged 12 months.  It is similar to Parmigiano Reggiano.  In my opinion, it has the sweetness of a parmesan, with a bit of a sharp bite.  It is produced in 15 pound wheels.  (I only bought about a third of a pound, but owning an entire wheel sounds like a nice dream to have.)  I have yet to find anything that the Piave doesn't add wonderful and distinctive flavor to, especially when sprinkled on salad or pasta.  I decided to use it for risotto before it ended up disappearing, as it tends to do quickly. 

My risotto recipe wasn't anything exciting.  My main goal was just to substitute the parmesan with the Piave.  There was no disappointment there.  Now if only I had an entire wheel of it, perhaps I could try some more Piave recipes?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pork Medallions with Cherry Sauce

It is getting to be a little scary how many recipes I’ve bookmarked lately.  For every recipe I set out to find, I find about twenty links to unrelated ones that look good.  That’s how I ended up making yet another pork loin recipe the other day. 

It’s also a little perplexing because this will be the third pork recipe I’ve posted.  Typically I prefer beef over any other meat, so I might have to do some major catching up on recipes once it is warm enough to pull out the grill.  Although pork loins are nice because they are so simple to throw in the oven, I’m not terribly fond of the natural saltiness they have.  I saw this Food Network recipe for Pork Medallions with Cherry Sauce that I thought might cure that problem.

This was a time where I was working with what I already had on hand, so the recipe did get altered a bit.  For starters, I used a regular 2 ¼ pound pork loin, which meant I had to double the recipe.  I also cooked it whole in the oven instead of slicing and cooking it with oil in a skillet.  I realize I lost a little flavor by not having these browned meat drippings in the pan, but I thought it was decent trade off for a healthy preparation and time saved.  For the sauce, I put a tiny bit of olive oil in the skillet to heat up.  I sautéed some leftover diced sweet onion instead of shallots.  After adding the liquids to the pan, I threw in a couple teaspoons of sugar because I wanted the fruit sauce to be sweeter than the recipe appeared to be.  (Ok, so ignore what I said earlier about healthier preparation.) I think that whenever I hear cherries, my mind naturally goes to cherry pie and all the sweetness and deliciousness that entails, so suddenly I’m craving a sweeter flavor for the sauce.  I also wanted the sauce to thicken up a little.  I added more cherries than the recipe called for, and I used canned tart cherries. 
To serve the dish, I sliced the pork and then added the cherries and sauce.  This also made for a lot easier leftover storage and reheating. 

The sauce did manage to cut some of the salty taste of the pork.  It was still a little more watery than I wanted.  I would like to try this with some sweeter cherries.  I think I envision sweeter fruits used with pork.  I noticed some of the reviews under the recipe suggested adding a little honey, so that may be an option.  This is another recipe that will go under my list of ones I’d try again, but add some changes in the process. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Vanilla Bean Scones

Like a lot of people, I’m partial to those petite vanilla bean scones they serve at Starbucks.  I’m also partial to trying anything that involves vanilla beans.  Awhile back, I’d seen The Pioneer Woman Cooks version of these scones.  I had never attempted scones before, so I was a little nervous about this recipe. 

I will warn you that this is a scary recipe.  By scary, I mean it has enough unhealthy ingredients to let you know it must taste really good.  The quantities of butter, cream and powdered sugar made me decide to make this on a night where I could send off some of the finished product to work with my husband.  That way I wouldn’t have a bunch of (hopefully) delicious scones sitting at my house tempting me. 
One problem about making these on a weekday evening was that I didn’t get started until about 10 p.m.  That caused me to rush a little more than I would have normally liked to.  I kind of felt like the scones turned out the opposite of the s’mores cupcakes from the other day in that they tasted great, but didn’t look so pretty.  Mine turned out a little flatter than I think scones should.  I also fell down on the job again as far as pictures.  It was only after I sent my husband off with the prettier scones that I realized I hadn’t taken any pictures yet. (Hey- this remembering to take a bunch of pictures of all the food I make is harder than it sounds!  I’m sure you’ve also all noticed that my kitchen has the worst lighting possible and my camera probably costs A LOT less than ones used to take pictures on some other food blogs.)

Based on taste, I would give these a good review.  As far as looks, I’d like to try the recipe again sometime when I don’t feel so rushed. 

Pulled Pork

Last week, I was looking for a good pulled pork recipe.  I was wanting something I could leave in the crock pot for the day.  After some searching, I found this delicious looking recipe.  The spice mixture looked amazing.  I also liked the idea of brining the pork first. 
After brining a 4.5 pound Boston Butt overnight, I patted the pork loin dry like the recipe says.  I then diverted from the recipe by rubbing a thin layer of yellow mustard all over the pork.  (I actually took that idea from another post I’d seen which had done a great job of making me really hungry.) Next I applied the rub mixture.  Although the recipe uses the oven, I put the meat in my crock pot on low for 10 hours. 
You’ll have to excuse the lack of pictures with this post.  To be honest, I completely forgot to get pictures of the finished product.  I can tell you that it was really good and made for lots of leftovers.  I had left this in the crock pot on a weekday, so I came back from work to a house that smelled amazing.  After smelling this all day long, the Helpers were begging at our feet as we were fixing dinner.  I would  also recommend following the recipe and keeping some rub to mix in with the cooked pork.  It added a fantastic layer of flavor. 

"Where's mine?"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

S'mores Cupcakes

It is never good when something you are baking totally flops.  What is just as bad, if not worse, is when something comes out of the oven looking delicious, but tastes completely bland.  That’s what happened to me on my last recipe attempt. 

I have a slight obsession with s’mores.  It there is a s’mores version of something, I have to buy it.  If I find a s’more recipe, I have to try it.  You get the picture.  Cooking and baking blogs have opened up a whole new opportunity for me because the recipes are usually accompanied by pictures, so I can see what I’m getting myself into.  These recipes are also usually more representative of actual s’mores.  If you were to do a quick search on google or yahoo for s’mores dessert recipes, you’d probably find a million where someone had made a pan of brownies and dumped mini marshmallows & some crushed graham crackers on top.  For true s'mores fanatics, that just doesn’t cut it. 

Due to my other new obsession with cooking blogs, I have amassed a healthy collection of s’mores recipes. (Ok, so “healthy” is probably not an appropriate word to use when discussing s’mores.)  This includes a subset of s’mores cupcake recipes.  Yesterday, I decided to try the one that appealed to me the most.  This recipe began with a graham cracker cupcake that had a marshmallow filling and chocolate sauce and meringue topping.

I had the best of feelings as I poured the batter into the cupcake tin.  My first hint that something was wrong probably should have been when my cupcakes took quite a bit longer to cook than the recipe.  The actual cake part on the recipe post looked so nice and fluffy, yet mine looked so dense.  Apparently I hadn’t done the best job of following the recipe precisely.  The filling was thick and sticky enough to be a little difficult to pipe in.

After assembling these, I was a little more optimistic.  They looked great.  The chocolate sauce was slightly runny, which created that perfect messy s’mores look.  The meringue worked great with my Pampered Chef decorator.  (You’ll have to excuse the fact I forgot to toast the tops before I took the pictures.)
So, here I was with a bunch of delicious looking s’mores cupcakes sitting before me.  I then took a big bite of one, only to discover that there wasn’t much there.  It was completely bland.  How disappointing is that?  The recipe I was using had won at least one cupcake contest award, so I’m guessing I’m missing something in the preparation.  I also missed the crunch that is usually there with a true s’more, so that would have to be incorporated in some way if I messed with this recipe again. 

I do have another s’mores recipe I can’t wait to try, but first I have to get my hands on some 3”x2” cake rings.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Chipotle Chicken Pasta

There was a situation on this blog that had to be remedied.  So far I have only had one pasta post, which could probably be considered a horrifying breach of cooking blog etiquette. 

I have always adored pasta.  In fact, the one Reading Rainbow episode I can recall from childhood was the one where they visited the pasta factory.  I was probably about five or six years old, but I vividly remember being in awe as I watched the tortellini making process.  I guess that was either an example of my love for pasta, or perhaps just an early indication of my future cooking obsession.   (Yes, I did check YouTube for that Reading Rainbow clip, which sadly was nowhere to be found.) The recipe I made for this post uses farfalle (bowtie) pasta, which alone is enough reason to make me want to try the dish.  I remember growing up in a house where my mother kept an extensive collection of pasta.   Even as an adult, I still think it’s pretty awesome that pasta comes in cool shapes like bowties, shells, or wagon wheels.  

I actually didn’t start my recipe search looking specifically for pasta.  I was really looking for something to use the rest of my chipotles with.  The problem with constantly trying new recipes is that I am also constantly buying different ingredients.  Sometimes it can be hard to find things to use these ingredients in again, but I’ve been making an attempt to better utilize all the items currently overflowing my cabinets. As for my leftover chipotles, I was lucky enough to run across Homemade By Holman’s Chipotle Chicken Pasta. 

Chipotle Chicken Pasta
1/2 lb farfalle (bowtie) pasta
12 oz of chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1/8 cup lime juice
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, diced
½ red onion, diced
3 minced chipotle pepper, canned in adobo sauce
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Marinate chicken in lime juice, 1 clove minced garlic, chili powder, salt, and half the cilantro.  Cook pasta according to directions.  In the meantime, heat olive oil in 12 inch skillet.  Cook the chicken, red bell pepper, onion and 1 clove minced garlic for about five minutes. 

Add the chicken stock and chipotles and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add the cooked pasta.  Turn the heat to low and add the cream and parmesan, stirring to coat.  Continue to cook for a couple minutes to allow the sauce to thicken a little.  Remove from heat and sprinkle with the remaining cilantro.

You’ll notice that I tweaked the recipe a bit to my liking.  First off, I tend to like shredded chicken in dishes more than I do chunks of chicken.  Because of this, I used pre-cooked shredded chicken. I still let my chicken sit in the lime liquid mixture for a few minutes.  I also went with all red bell pepper.  The biggest change I made was to use more chipotle than the original recipe called for.  I found the three chipotles to be the perfect amount.  They added just the right amount of smoky heat to the pasta, but didn’t have so much heat that my mouth was left burning.  There was far more flavor than heat.  Finally, I made up a little bit more sauce.
If I tried this again, I’d try using fat free half and half instead of the cream.  I’ve found that fat free half and half makes for a good substitute for cream in some pasta dishes.  It probably wouldn’t work as well in a cream heavy alfredo type sauce, but I have a feeling it might work fine for this type of lighter sauce.

My husband and I were both thrilled with this recipe. Not only did the flavors combine wonderfully, but it was simple and quick to make.  I have plans to mess with the recipe a little more.  I think I might have to try a future version with white cheddar and a little more chipotle.  It would also be pretty good with peas added in.   Suddenly I am also envisioning a chipotle cream sauce on linguine with red and yellow pepper strips and scallops.  Needless to say, I’m sure this recipe will provide a good base for lots of different variations.